I found a new drink. It's called "Zooce." That's a combination of "Zoo" and "Juice." What does Zoo Juice taste like, you ask? According to the bottle, it tastes like a "fruit parade." Anyway, I love saying Zooce.
Golden Week starts tomorrow. I don't really have any plans, although I will be traveling into the country to see a castle and maybe a hot spring. And I might even climb a mountain. My plans are pretty flexible. It's tempting to try to throw together a trip to Tokyo, but I'm not sure how best to go about that.
In other random news, I found a totally awesome new arcade. On weekends, they have a special two-for-one deal on several of their best games too. Goodbye money!
Today I found out that one of my students wants to quit because she isn't enjoying our classes. They're private classes, so, if she doesn't like me, it would definitely impact her enjoyment of the class. Still, I generally enjoyed my classes with her and thought they were going okay. Granted, they're on Saturday morning, so I may have looked a bit tired during them. That might have been part of the problem. Anyway, it was sucky news and I still feel bad thinking about it.
So instead of dwelling on that, I'm going to complain about something petty.
In the lobby of my school is a television with built-in VCR. Yes, VCR. As in, the thing you use to play VHS's. Now, I'm a fan of VHS's. They're great. But if I were to walk into a building and see a VHS, "successful business" is not the first thing that would leap to mind. Anyway, my manager likes to have movies (in English with Japanese subtitles) running all the time to help create an casual atmosphere in the lobby. It also gives people something to talk about in order to combat those awkward silences. But this means I get to watch bits and pieces of the same movies over and over again. The movies we have in our collection are quite random. There's American Beauty, Adam's Family 2, Jurassic Park, Leon, Run Lola Run, and lots more I'm forgetting. They also some Simpsons, but those don't have Japanese subtitles so they're unlikely to be shown (unfortunately). Anyway, the two I've seen the most of are "All About the Benjamins" and "Ocean's Twleve."
All About the Benjamins is an action movie starring Ice Cube and it's so terrible it's rather entertaining. I must have seen the bad guy get shot at the film's conclusion a dozen times. Seeing a movie in a sequence of disordered bits and pieces is really a weird experience. You start, unconsciously, forming theories about what the plot could be and then adjust it as you go along. Anyway, Ocean's Twelve is just annoying. It's probably a better movie, but every single scene I see seems to be of someone looking smug, or someeone dodging their way through a corridor of lasers. And the music is extremely obnoxious and loud. I can hear the music anywhere in my school. Also, the beginning of the tape includes a stunningly annoying advertisement for DVD. I know, I should be charmed by how retro the ad is, but I can't be. I've seen it too many times, and it's just stupid. "It's a movie that fits on a disk the size of a CD!!!" the announcer screams in complete sincerity. "The sound is so clear you can hear a pin drop!!!" he exclaims. This comment is accompanied by a scene of several pins falling, each making a very loud noise. This ad nicely demonstrates the absurdity of trying to demonstrate the superiority of a new technology via an older technology. Obviously, you can already hear pins drop on your VHS. All I'm saying is it's a stupid advertisement for a stupid movie.
I don't know how you feel about globalization, but it creates some awesome mutant offspring. For example, an onigiri (or rice ball) is traditionally a lump of rice covered in seaweed. It also typically has some kind of filling in the middle. The question has always been what to put in the middle. Well, seven eleven has the best answer: cheese burger onigiri. So instead of a traditional (boring) pickled plum or healthy (blah) seafood, there's a delicious cheeseburger covered in rice and seaweed.
My point is just that it was pretty darn good.
One of the benefits of teaching English is the opportunity to observe first-hand how screwed up my native language can be. While reading a passage, some students came across the sentence "I know quite a bit about South African history" Well, they asked what "quite" meant, and I told them that it was an intensifier. [Checking Merriam-Webster just now, I get "wholly, to a considerable extent, or to an extreme."] And knowing that "a bit" means "a small amount," they interpreted the sentence to mean "I know very little about South African history." I can't say that that conclusion isn't logical.
I was having class with an elderly woman, who was talking about how she couldn't use modern technology. After I mentioned that I used the internet to stay in touch with friends and family, she asked, "When did you master the internet?" I think she meant "learn how to use the internet," but the original version is just awesome.
Cool thing number two was the discovery that 7-11 sells burritos. I heartily endorse this development! Hisashiburi, burrito-sama.
One not-exactly-cool-but-definitely-surreal thing that happened today:
I tried to explain the "Hokey Pokey" song to my manager. I don't think I did a very good job (who could?), but she thought it was catchy. I then explained the phrase "stuck in my head."
Today I went to the fertility festival in Inuyama, Japan. It is more commonly known as the penis festival.
It was good times, and filled to the brim with phallic imagery. Penis lollipops, hot dogs with the ends modified to look like the head of a penis, and, that old classic, chocolate covered bananas. And I'll be damned if those bananas, phallic though they were, didn't still look delicious.
Even knowing what you're getting yourself into, it's hard to prepare yourself for just how fond of wangs this temple is. There were so many rocks (naturally formed and otherwise) and sculptures dedicated to the body part. Also, it was very weird seeing parents pick up their young children so that they could touch these phallic rocks. Not that I'm juding or anything. I'm very open-minded. But seriously, Japan. (The female shrine, on the the other hand, is curiously devoid of female body parts. Some might argue sexism?) The whole thing culminates in a parade where they march this year's giant wooden dong through the streets as excited onlooks are able to touch the mighty phallus for sexual good fortune in the coming year. From where I was standing, it seemed as though old women were most eager to gain such luck. Moving on...
There were also demonstrations at the festival by kendo swordsmen (and swordswoman) and a taiko drum team. Both were awesome, but I think I honestly enjoyed the taiko drums more. They were fun to watch, as well as listen to. They really did a great job and I dug their crazy music. And after the taiko demonstration, the most amazing thing that's happened to me since I've come to Japan.
As I turned around, a young woman standing beside me tapped my shoulder. She was standing with her friend, and they eagerly pushed their cell phone towards me, pointing at the screen. On the screen was the message, "I stained your clothes with ketchup." I took off my sweatshirt to see what the damage was, only to find an extremely small discolored spot where they had apparently spilled ketchup (although it didn't look like ketchup, but I chalked that up to an unreliable cellphone translator). The spot was so small that I had trouble finding it, and they actually had to help me in locating it. I tried to tell them it was fine (in the best Japanese I could manage), but they just kept saying sorry and bowing.
Now, honestly, if most people accidentally spilled something on the person standing in front of them, especially a small something, I'm willing to bet that most people would just hope the other person didn't notice and perhaps sneak away when an opportunity presents itself. I'm not a little bit embarassed to admit that that would probably be my first instinct. If they did notice? Maybe I'd just play dumb, pretend I didn't know what they were talking about. Not only did these women decide to tell me what had happened, but, upon seeing that I was a foreigner, they had whipped out a cell phone translator and translated a message explaining (in English) what had happened. Seriously, who the hell does that? Whose first reaction is to think, "Oh no, I spilled a tiny amount of food on the guy in front of me. He'll probably be upset when he finds it hours later. I better quickly find a way to explain what I did to him in English and apologize at the soonest possible opportunity."
Seriously, Japan. I know you're polite, and I'm okay with that, but you some times go above and beyond. Some might argue too far. Or maybe the wang festival just brings out the best in people.
It's harder to update regularly than I thought it was going to be.
So I've finally started teaching, and I don't think I'm sucking at it too badly. At least, I think I'm getting better. In case I haven't told everyone yet, my manager is awesome. Training was dull and I'm glad it's over.
I can't find an arcade in this area! That's one of my only complaints thus far. My apartment itself is okay, although it's still missing some of the basic amenities conducive to comfortable living, like towels.
My one other complaint is that the trash system in Japan is a bewildering maze of confusion. There are four different collection days, and they vary based on area. I didn't realize how much they varied, until I asked another teacher, who told me that the school we work at follows a different schedule than her apartment, which is only a few blocks away. I have a box full of trash in my apartment, with no idea of how to get rid of it. Frustration!
Also, I may have broken my first Japanese law? Actually, I'm not sure if it's a law. I doubt it is! But anyway, I rode on one of the women-only subway cars. I don't know if you know this, but Japan decided to give women their own car during certain times on weekdays in order to help them avoid business men feeling them up. But not seeing the signs (on the ground), I hurriedly followed my fellow teacher (FEMALE) onto the train. Alas! The looks of the many women in the car could have only meant that they thought me a hopeful pervert, boiling over with train-groping-inspired lust. Or maybe they just thought I was a stupid foreigner. Which would be worse? At least I was getting off at the next stop.
Finally, tonight I ate a kangaroo burger! You can add one more of God's creatures to the list of animals I've eaten! It was pretty good, but doesn't beat cow. I had it at an Aussie pub, which just so happens to be the same pub at which my team won that week's trivia/quiz competition. The final round required competitors to smell various sealed containers in order to identify their contents. Thankfully, we had a woman on our team, so we snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. Our team name was the Dead Kangaroos.
I'm going to try and see how long I can go without eating in the same restaurant twice since arriving in Japan.
So far, I've been to...
Yoshinoya - Where my lack of Japanese ability resulted in embarrassment!
Denny's - Mini-french toast!
Curry place - So good. I already know this is the restaurant that's going to destroy my resolve, since I wanted to go back there even as I was leaving.
Peace and Harmony Place(?) - Some random bar / diner. I had ramen. It was good, but I felt sick that night. It may have been a coincidence, but there's little danger of me going back here any time soon.
Aloha Burger - "Makes your mouth dance! " promises the storefront. Their mascot is a human tongue dancing the hula, unless I'm misinterpreting it.
Spaghetti place - I thought this place was kinda random. They serve spaghetti with different toppings. The irony would have been fantastic if they also served one curry dish (since curry places generally serve one spaghetti dish).
To celebrate the end of my college career, I decided to create list of all the classes I've taken at Kenyon. They're organized from my favorite classes to my least favorite. This is intended to serve as a personal reminder of my college experiences.